Local connection to quarantines topic of presentation tonight

March 27, 2009

TRURO – When former Truro resident Ian Cameron was five years old, he caught scarlet fever.
“I just remember being very sick,” recalled Cameron, who was the class valedictorian at Colchester County Academy in 1961.
His family’s home was quarantined. A sign was placed in the window and he was secluded from his siblings in an effort to stop the disease from spreading. The family wasn’t permitted to leave the house.
“I can’t remember how my father got groceries,” said Cameron, 65, who will be discussing the history of quarantines in Nova Scotia this evening at the Colchester Historical Society Museum.
Typhus, cholera and smallpox put a nasty dent in Nova Scotia’s medical history. The worst of these diseases were found in Halifax and Pictou. Truro was more fortunate.
“I think because of it not being a port, it just wasn’t at risk,” said Cameron.
Truro’s strongest link to quarantine history lies with Adams George Archibald, a father of Confederation based in Truro.
When he was 18, Archibald volunteered to be a medical assistant in a quarantine hospital in Halifax in 1832. His life of pubic service is honoured in Truro.
“Adams Street is named after him. Archibald Street is named after him. George Street is named after him,” Cameron said.
Cameron, who is now a professor of Family Medicine at Dalhousie University, is a Fellow of the Canadian College of Family Physicians and a Diplomat of the American Board of Family Practice.
In 2007, Cameron published Quarantine: What is Old is New. It focuses on the history of Truro,
Pictou, Halifax and Lawlor’s Island and the devastating diseases that were passed from port to port.
He also will comment on the fact that infectious diseases still make headlines, only now the names are SARS virus and bird flu rather than smallpox and cholera.
Elinor Maher, chairwoman of the program committee at the Colchester Historical Society, is looking forward to Cameron’s discussion, particularly considering his strong connections to the area. “His father was the principal of the high school and his mother was a delightful lady who was a well-known artist. They were very much a part of Truro,” said Maher.

(This story was published in the Truro Daily News on Thursday, March 26, 2009.)

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